by AMANDA WINTERS
A poll conducted by the Clallam County Bar Association ranks Clallam County Superior Court judge candidates Christopher Melly and Erik Rohrer as tied for first.
Conducted last month following a candidates forum, the poll was limited to attorneys who are current in their dues, which fund scholarships to graduating high school students and local education programs.
Bar President Simon Barnhart said the candidates were evaluated on experience, legal ability, integrity, judgment/common sense, objectivity/impartiality, administrative ability, demeanor, temperament, organizational skills and work habits. Candidates were ranked on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent and 1 being deficient. The poll went out to 76 members and 47 returned the poll with their rankings.
Melly, Clallam County hearing examiner, and Rohrer, District Court 2 judge, tied for first with overall scores of 4.16. Port Angeles attorney Curtis Johnson scored 3.47 and Assistant Attorney General William Payne scored 3.21.
Melly received the highest scores for legal ability, integrity, judgment/common sense, administrative
ability, organizational skills and work habits. Rohrer received the highest scores for experience, objectivity/impartiality, demeanor and temperament.
Rohrer said he was pleased to receive the highest scores in those areas, which he said are the qualities most people expect in a good judge.
“Obviously, it’s very flattering to come out on top in any poll, but as a judge, it’s especially gratifying to know that attorneys who practice in my court recognize my abilities,” he said.
Melly said he was delighted with the results.
“To come out on top was nice recognition by the bar that I’m a quality attorney,” he said.
Melly said he was especially proud of his ranking on integrity.
“Wanting to be known as someone who has integrity has always been very important to me,” he said.
Payne, whose lowest scores were for experience and legal ability, said he wasn’t surprised at the results.
“I’ve only been here for four years and the attorneys here know me as the bar president,” he said.
“They don’t really know my work.”
Payne served as Bar Association president in 2010.
Johnson, a private practice attorney in Port Angeles for 34 years, said law is a very competitive profession.
“If I get a good result for my client in a case, then my opponent does not fare as well,” he said. “Over the years, hard feelings can occur and sometimes there are axes to grind.”
He said some of the categories such as work habits, organizational skills and administrative ability are pretty esoteric.
“How do you know how to rate an attorney on those criteria if you do not practice law in the same office with him or have supervisory authority over him?” he asked. “Some of those areas are fairly subjective.”
Johnson said with the numbers given he was only 0.7 of a point from Melly and Rohrer, which to him is not too significant considering the limited number of responses of the surveys returned by the lawyers.
Melly said, "I think that many of the voters will rely upon the bar poll when casting their votes, viewing the local attorneys as experts on the qualifications of the candidates.
Johnson and Payne said they don’t think the poll results will have a significant effect on the larger voting pool in Clallam County. Rohrer thought otherwise.
“Professionals in any field are usually the best source for information about the qualifications of other professionals in that field,” he said. “I believe the voters will see the poll as a factor to consider when deciding which candidate is best qualified for this position.”
Reach Amanda Winters at firstname.lastname@example.org.